Raphaela Haug | Mont Blanc 3 Ways

In the summer of 2020, as restrictions across Europe gradually eased, many climbers found themselves once more discovering, with renewed appreciation, the joy of spending a day in the mountains. Raphaela Haug was no exception, seizing the opportunity to fulfil dreams of summiting Mont Blanc: a feat she managed not once, but three times that summer.

 

After a flying start, summiting and descending Mont Blanc before breakfast one day last June, the brief alpine season offered a rare opportunity to revisit the famous peak again and again.

 

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Photo: Tom Livingtsone and Robert Grasegger descending from Mont Blanc after an ascent of the Peuterey Integrale. Photo by Uisdean Hawthorn.

 

Route 1: Up and Back in 36,000 Seconds....

Do you know the feeling? You commit to something, you're fully motivated... but still not sure if it's a good idea. That's how I felt when we arrived at the parking lot in Les Houches in the Chamonix valley.

 

We’d driven straight from Innsbruck (Austria) to Chamonix (France), and were now at the starting point of the Gouter route on Mont Blanc. At only 1,000 meters above sea level, there were 3,800 meters of elevation still ahead of us! I had no idea if I'd ever walked that many vertical meters in one go. "Maybe you'd better not think about that now," I think to myself, "you'd better concentrate on taking everything important with you."

 

Photos by Tommy Friedrich.

 

We pack our paragliders, rescues and harnesses. We check the glacier equipment, then take enough food and drinks with us. When we're done, we grin at each other. Somehow this is all surreal. I mean, just a minute ago we were eating lasagna and less than seven hours later, we're standing in Chamonix; ready to get a little closer to my personal dream. The dream that has been in my head for several years.

 

We started at 11 pm in Les Houches. The early (or late!) start was to ensure we would have enough time to walk through the night and arrive at the summit in the morning, hopefully able to fly down. I like to move at night - you can indulge your thoughts and you always feel much faster than you are. The further up we got, the more beautiful the starry sky became. Below us shone the sea of lights of Les Houches, and in the distance the lights of Chamonix could be seen.

...

 

Route 2: Innominata Ridge

Dreams are for living. That was not only the motto of my first Mont Blanc climb last summer, but the motto of my entire last year. After we were able to fly from the highest peak in Europe in June, I still had some time in July. And the weather still looked good. So, after looking at different routes, and studying weather and conditions again in detail, it was 'Mont Blanc here we come' once more.

 

This time Martin Schidlowski accompanied me and our goal was not the north side, but the south side of Mont Blanc, known to many as "the wild side". Here there are no cableways to make the ascent easier. Every meter must be earned with one's own strength. The Innominata Ridge is considered wild, remote and serious, and is graded up to 1000m, D+, V+, 60º . It's a beautiful route through snow, ice and rock. Sometimes exposed, rarely fragile and a fantastic view included.

 

Photos by Martin Schidlowski and Raphaela Haug 

 

Martin and I started early, as soon as the sun hits the snow it gets warm and more dangerous as rocks start to fall. The early start more than paid off, sunrises in the mountains are just always something special. We progressed quickly, and worked our way up briskly meter by meter. Most of the way we climbed on a running rope, a few pitches we belayed. And then we were rewarded once again with the summit of Mont Blanc. Thank you Martin for this beautiful day in the mountains!

 

Route 3: Central Pillar of Freney

What comes after a second Mont Blanc outing? Correct, a third. Again the south side, again a fantastic route. This time together with Laura Tiefenthaler. Our destination: Central Pillar of Freney. The climbing guidebook calls it "one of the great alpine climbs." That definitely sounded promising.

 

The Eccles Bivouac was once more the starting point for our route, just as it had been for the Innominata Ridge. Another early start. 2:00 a.m. and the alarm clock rings. Get up, have breakfast and off we go. We traversed in the dark towards the Freney glacier, the fog moved and the orientation became more and more difficult. After some searching we were faced with the realization that we couldn't find the start in the fog and darkness. OK, we waited for the light.

 

 

(left) photos by Laura Tiefenthaler and Raphaela Haug

 

With us were two other rope teams who wanted to climb the Freney. With the first light, we started the route. Pitch by pitch it goes up. Solid and crumbly rock alternate. Some passages are icy, others super climbable in climbing shoes. It is early afternoon by the time we arrive at the crux. In total there are two or three pitches of 7a/7a+. I get to climb the first pitch, a perfect crack! Free climbing at 4,000 meters! Laura does the traverse and the following pitch. At the third pitch we both unpack our aid skills. Nevertheless, an impressive pitch, and a dizzying view. A few more meters follow, slowly it draws to a close and we stand in the late afternoon in a complete whiteout but more than happy at the summit. We decide to spend a night more or less sleepless in Vallot Biwack and climb the next day from Nid d'Aigle where we take the cable car to the valley.

 

Again the third time up Mont Blanc was more than worth it. Thank you Laura for this unforgettable day, hope of many more to come!

 

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